TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) - A woman convicted just weeks ago of being the "D.C. madam" hanged herself Thursday, apparently making good on her vow never to go to prison for running a high-end Washington prostitution ring.
The body of Deborah Jeane Palfrey was found in a shed near her mother's manufactured home about 20 miles northwest of Tampa. Police said the 52-year-old left a suicide note, but they did not disclose its contents. The mother found Palfrey, who had apparently hanged herself with nylon rope from the shed's ceiling.
Officers were outside the mother's white and pink home in the community of mostly retirees.
A man who answered a phone listed for Palfrey's mother declined to comment.
"This is a tragic news and my heart goes out to her mother," said attorney Preston Burton, who represented Palfrey in her trial.
A federal jury convicted Palfrey on April 15 of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington's political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican. She was convicted of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering.
Palfrey had denied her escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.
The trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses but did not take the stand.
Channing Phillips, the spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in the District of Columbia, said that under sentencing guidelines, Palfrey faced 57 to 71 months in prison. She was free pending her sentencing July 24.
"I am sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years here, because I'm shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever," Palfrey told ABC last year when she released phone records that revealed some of her clients. "Not for a second. I'll bring every last one of them in if necessary."
Prosecutors said Palfrey operated the prostitution service for 13 years.
Vitter, a first-term senator who is married and has four children, has acknowledged being involved with Palfrey's escort service and has apologized for what he called a "very serious sin." But he avoided commenting further.
Besides Vitter, the trial also concluded without the testimony of military strategist Harlan Ullman or Randall Tobias, a former senior State Department official. Both men had been named among possible witnesses.
One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.
Palfrey said last year that she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: "I guess I'm made of something that Brandy Britton wasn't made of."